Written by Sandy Sorensen
Poverty. For some, it is a cause. For others, it is a reality. These are real people, with real stories.
A mother and her child demonstrate on the Washington Mall. Sandy Sorensen photo.
On March 5, about 2,000 anti-poverty advocates rallied in Washington, D.C., to put a real face on poverty in the United States. Joining them were more than 200 UCC members.
The Rally for Poverty Reduction was organized to focus greater attention on the debate now before Congress on the reauthorization of federal welfare legislation called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It was sponsored by the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support in cooperation with the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.
Participants emphasized the need for more adequate child care, access to job training, and opportunities for education as key factors necessary for moving persons out of poverty. They protested the Bush Administration's proposals that provide no additional dollars for child care, job training, or transportation. The president's plan offers no changes in the welfare-to-work time limits and denies benefits to legal immigrants.
The UCC's welfare working group, under the leadership of Jim Stewart of First Congregational UCC in Cambridge, Mass., brought more than 150 UCC members from New York, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to tell their personal stories to Congress. Several congregations, such as San Lucas UCC in Chicago and Iglesia Espanola UCC in the Bronx, utilized chartered buses to bring dozens of their members.
Participants were joined by U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York), and members of the staff of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota).
Hundreds carried signs bearing the UCC emblem that read "I'm a Witness for Justice!" and "Soy Testigo de la Justicia!"
"Even though my state of Connecticut has one of the highest per capital incomes in the country, there is still much poverty," said the Rev. Gordon Bates, associate conference minister in Connecticut. "Because of the high cost of living, people simply can't support their families with the jobs available now."
On the evening before the rally, First Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C., hosted an inspiring worship service led by the Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth UCC in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Noemi Parrilla-Mena of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Worshipers were charged to offer justice, not just charity, to the poor.
Sandy Sorensen is Associate for Communications and Media Advocacy in Justice and Witness Ministries' Washington, D.C., office.
For more information on TANF reauthorization, contact the Rev. Maria de Lourdes Porrata, Justice and Witness Ministries, at 216-736-3710 or email@example.com.